Archive for November, 2007

The Reality of Truth

“Sooner or later, the day comes, when you can’t hide from the things that you’ve done anymore.”
– Admiral William Adama

Shorted by Amazon Marketplace Shipping Costs

Tags:

Amazon Marketplace Book ShipmentsI’ve been selling many books and DVDs from my personal collection (used and new) on Amazon Marketplace with great success using my mobilepress.org storefront.

I don’t make a lot of profit per-book, but I am keeping the books in circulation, out of the landfills, and I’m increasing available free space on my own shelves for more books or less clutter; always a good thing.

Back in May of 2007, the USPS changed their shipping rates, which affected the costs of shipping things like books and DVDs, especially overseas.

With these new rates, there is no longer a “ground” (boat) method of sending materials overseas. It must go via air rates. This means a significant increase in shipping costs.

Unfortunately, Amazon has not yet compensated for these changes 7 months later

Case in point: I was shipping a book to Spain yesterday to fulfill an order. The book’s price on Amazon Marketplace was $14.99. Amazon calculated the final destination (Gernika, Bizkaia in Spain), and added $12.49 on top of the selling price to cover the shipping costs.

Normally, this would be sufficient to ship the book via “ground” method to Spain. Now that all overseas shipments have to go by air, the cost to ship alone was $36.00 USD. That’s almost 3 times what Amazon charged the buyer for shipping the item.

Item Subtotal:   $14.99
Shipping:        $12.49
------------------------------
Total:           $27.48

In other words, I not only lost any profit on the sale of this book, I also lost $8.52 out of my own pocket to ship this book.

I sold another item on the same day, and the profit and shipping for that item (going to Australia), and that recouped some of the costs, but the margins were razor thin.

I have to wonder why Amazon hasn’t compensated for the shipping changes and charges. Granted, I’m using the United States Postal Service to ship these items, but maybe I should be looking at shipping via UPS, FedEx or DHL.

Another option, is to just disable the ability for overseas shipments and sales in all of my items. Unfortunately, this cuts about 30% of my sales right off the top; probably not a good idea.

More abuse from msnbot and ignoring robots.txt

msnbot continues to ignore robots.txt

For years, I’ve been watching and throttling many spiders and crawlers from abusing the services on hundreds of domains and subdomains that I host.

One of these crawlers is Microsoft’s msnbot. This particular crawler parses the robots.txt on these sites, ignore it entirely, and then indexes and follows the links forbidden within it anyway. Apparently 686 other people are having trouble with the same exact problem.

To try to combat the msnbot abuse, I’ve set the following structure in robots.txt over a year ago:

User-agent: msnbot
Crawl-delay: 3000

And here’s a snippet of some of their crawling from today’s logs:

65.55.209.99 lists.plkr.org - - [24/Nov/2007:11:18:35 -0500] "GET
/pipermail/plucker-list/2003-September/003245.html HTTP/1.0" 200 3739 "-" "msnbot/1.0
(+http://search.msn.com/msnbot.htm)"

65.55.209.99 lists.plkr.org - - [24/Nov/2007:11:18:35 -0500] "GET
/pipermail/plucker-list/2003-November/003813.html HTTP/1.0" 200 6633 "-" "msnbot/1.0
(+http://search.msn.com/msnbot.htm)"

65.55.209.99 lists.plkr.org - - [24/Nov/2007:11:18:35 -0500] "GET
/pipermail/plucker-list/2003-November/003746.html HTTP/1.0" 200 11074 "-" "msnbot/1.0
(+http://search.msn.com/msnbot.htm)"

65.55.209.99 lists.plkr.org - - [24/Nov/2007:11:18:35 -0500] "GET
/pipermail/plucker-list/2003-December/003824.html HTTP/1.0" 200 3811 "-" "msnbot/1.0
(+http://search.msn.com/msnbot.htm)"

65.55.209.99 lists.plkr.org - - [24/Nov/2007:11:18:35 -0500] "GET
/pipermail/plucker-list/2004-August/005386.html HTTP/1.0" 200 3884 "-" "msnbot/1.0
(+http://search.msn.com/msnbot.htm)"

65.55.209.99 lists.plkr.org - - [24/Nov/2007:11:18:35 -0500] "GET
/pipermail/plucker-list/2004-January/004013.html HTTP/1.0" 200 4432 "-" "msnbot/1.0
(+http://search.msn.com/msnbot.htm)"

65.55.209.99 lists.plkr.org - - [24/Nov/2007:11:18:36 -0500] "GET
/pipermail/plucker-list/2003-May/002431.html HTTP/1.0" 200 6210 "-" "msnbot/1.0
(+http://search.msn.com/msnbot.htm)"

65.55.209.99 lists.plkr.org - - [24/Nov/2007:11:18:36 -0500] "GET
/pipermail/plucker-list/2003-May/002412.html HTTP/1.0" 200 4020 "-" "msnbot/1.0
(+http://search.msn.com/msnbot.htm)"

65.55.209.99 lists.plkr.org - - [24/Nov/2007:11:18:36 -0500] "GET
/pipermail/plucker-list/2003-June/002814.html HTTP/1.0" 200 5505 "-" "msnbot/1.0
(+http://search.msn.com/msnbot.htm)"

65.55.209.99 lists.plkr.org - - [24/Nov/2007:11:18:36 -0500] "GET
/pipermail/plucker-list/2003-June/002687.html HTTP/1.0" 200 4033 "-" "msnbot/1.0
(+http://search.msn.com/msnbot.htm)"

65.55.209.99 lists.plkr.org - - [24/Nov/2007:11:18:36 -0500] "GET
/pipermail/plucker-list/2003-June/002741.html HTTP/1.0" 200 4594 "-" "msnbot/1.0
(+http://search.msn.com/msnbot.htm)"

They’ve hit that same site 333 times today, with the crawl delay set to 3,000 (50 minutes per-request). They’re hitting that site above, at 19 requests/second.

I’m about to block them outright now, if they can’t even adhere to their own exclusion declarations. There are only 233 separate uniques for msnbot, and I’m happy to block them all.

Update to my 9/11 Commission Report

9/11 Commission Report I’ve taken some time this Thanksgiving to update my 9/11 Commission Report to correct more of the flow of the text, removed/moved some of the Google ads out of the way of the reader’s eyes, and some other things under the hood.

Since the report is getting so many hits lately (including dozens of people who are openly plagiarizing my work and selling it; yes, I know who you are and you’ll be hearing from me soon), that I decided to give it a new facelift.

If you’re interested in reading it in mobile formats, I have those versions available as well:

9/11 Commission Report in Plucker format

9/11 Commission Report in iSilo format.

WARNING: Scam, Avoid Classmates.com At All Costs, Literally

Classmate.com is a scam and should be avoided I’ve been a member of Classmates.com for several years, trying to contact with some old classmates, reconnect with a period of my past that I don’t remember due to my car accident. In that time, I think I’ve found 1, maybe 2 former classmates.

My “Gold” membership expired, and I saw no real need to renew it, because there is absolutely nothing there that merits spending that much on maintaining a membership. In 7 years, I’ve found 2 people through the site. I’ve reconnected with dozens of people from my past using Google and other free services.

Classmates.com has a habit of sending emails every week, sometimes more than once a week… every week. Many of them point to new classmates that have signed up from my schools, or people who have signed my guestbook and so on.

Now that my “Gold” membership has expired, I still get the emails, but when I log in to see who has signed my guestbook, I am told “Upgrade to see who signed guestbook”. They want me to upgrade, so I can see who signed my guestbook?! What a scam.

The other annoying thing, is that you can’t cancel these emails either. There’s no way to stop them, other than by marking all incoming mail from @classmates.com as spam in your mail client, and never seeing them again.

As a “free” member on Classmates.com, you are basically allowed to log in, and search for people in your previous schools. That’s it. You can’t post messages, you can’t contact these former classmates. You can’t do anything but log in, search, and wish you could contact these people.

Classmates.com is a total scam, and should be avoided at all costs. They’re not helping people reconnect with other people, they’re helping disconnect people from their wallets and purses, under the guise of hoping to reach former colleagues.

Stay away, and keep your money. There’s much easier, faster, and more-productive ways to find former colleagues and classmates than Classmates.com.

When I was searching for how to cancel my “free” membership, I ran across a lot of consumer complaints about Classmates.com and their “questionable billing practices”.

Here’s one of the testimonials of their fraudulent services:

Kate of Sarasota FL (07/11/07)

I had contacted Classmates.com to cancel my subscription 5 months prior to my renewal date and was told that it would be cancelled on July 12, 2007. On July 9, 2007, there was a charge from Classmates.com for $39 – three days before my renewal date. The phone number was listed on my transaction roster as 425-917-5000 so I called it and after being on hold for 15 minutes, I spoke with Crystal – she was pleasant and reviewed my account. She couldn’t find any record of the 7/9/07 transaction and could see that my account had been changed to a ‘manual’ renewal.

I told her that I wanted the charges reversed and she got my phone number to return my call within the hour. I have not heard from her since. I think that there should be a class action lawsuit against classmates.com for fraud. My account was charged before the renewal date…that is wrong and they shouldn’t be able to get away with it.

This is similar to how AOL used to do business, by teasing you with a “free” offer, which you sign up for, and then they begin auto-billing you after 30 days of your “free” membership, and did not offer any obvious, visible way to cancel that membership.

Stay away from Classmates.com, they’re not worth a penny.

VMware “undefined symbol: g_get_user_special_dir” error SOLVED

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If you’re using the latest version of VMWare Workstation, and try to configure it to boot to an ISO image file, VMWare will crash with the following error message:

/usr/lib/vmware/bin/vmware: symbol lookup error: 
/usr/lib/gtk-2.0/2.10.0/filesystems/libgnome-vfs.so: 
undefined symbol: g_get_user_special_dir

To solve this problem, simply launch VMWare with the following variable in your environment:

VMWARE_USE_SHIPPED_GTK=no vmware

Now you’ll get proper, working VMWare Workstation, using your native GTK+ on the system.

How NOT to Retire an Unused Email Address

Here is an example of how NOT to retire an unused email address..

I was going through our bugtracker today for Plucker and pilot-link issues as I was preparing for another pilot-link release (0.12.3, woo!), and decided to go through all of the legacy issues marked as Resolved, and mark them as Closed, to clean up the view for developers and other users.

Many of these bugs were posted months and years ago, from users who have since moved on, or changed their email addresses. When a bug is modified, or the status is changed, the posting user and anyone monitoring those bugs will get an email with the updated information.

One of the emails I got back today was just too funny NOT to share, so here it is:

Return-Path: 
Received: from mailhub2.otago.ac.nz (mailhub2.otago.ac.nz [139.80.64.247])
        by neptune.gnu-designs.com (8.13.8/8.13.8-SELinux) with ESMTP id
        lA9HiqEp030400 for ; Fri, 9 Nov 2007 12:44:52 -0500
Received: from caradhras.otago.ac.nz (caradhras.otago.ac.nz [139.80.64.37])
        by mailhub2.otago.ac.nz (8.13.8/8.13.8) with ESMTP id lA9HFs87017375 for
        ; Sat, 10 Nov 2007 06:15:54 +1300
Received: from cyrus by caradhras.otago.ac.nz with local (Exim 3.36 #1
        (Debian)) id 1IqXLR-00019S-00 for ; Sat, 10 Nov
        2007 06:08:37 +1300
Message-ID: 
Date: Sat, 10 Nov 2007 06:08:37 +1300
X-Sieve: CMU Sieve 2.2
From: <limda989@student.otago.ac.nz>
To: <desrod@gnu-designs.com>
Subject: FUCK OFF
In-Reply-To: 
Auto-Submitted: auto-replied (vacation)
MIME-Version: 1.0
Content-Type: text/plain; charset=utf-8
Content-Transfer-Encoding: 8bit
X-DSPAM-Result: Innocent
X-DSPAM-Processed: Fri Nov  9 12:54:14 2007
X-DSPAM-Confidence: 0.8154
X-DSPAM-Improbability: 1 in 443 chance of being spam
X-DSPAM-Probability: 0.0000
X-DSPAM-Signature: 3,47349ec6309294127285747
X-Evolution-Source: imap://desrod@mail.gnu-designs.com/

This is an automated message informing you to fuck off and stop sending me SPAM.

This email address is not in use.

!DSPAM:3,47349ec6309294127285747!

This is an example of how NOT to retire an email address you plan on never using again.

What Have We Become?

Lazy Man Walks Dog I was out making my daily trip to the post office to retrieve my mail and ship some packages.

Just as I was about to walk up the outside ramp into the post office, an SUV pulls up to the curb about 10 feet from the front door of the post office, and a woman rolls down the window and asks me if I’m going into the post office.

I said “Yes?” and she said “Can you go in there and buy me a stamp?” and she starts thumbing through her purse for some change to buy a single postage stamp.

I said “No, sorry. I won’t be standing in line.” and she gave me a very confused look.

What have we become, when we can’t even get out of our own vehicles to walk 20 steps into the post office to buy a single stamp. They even have these nice, convenient machines that you put coins into, and you get stamps in return. You don’t even have to stand in line.

Has our society become so lazy that they can’t even get out of their own chairs and use their muscles to move?

I’m happy I’ve risen far above this mess that everyone else seems to be pulled into.

WTHIWWP or “What the Heck Is Wrong With People”? Part I

I was reading a recent post by Bruce Schneier called “The War on the Unexpected“, when I stumbled across this other blog cross-reference. In short:

If dad goes for a walk with his daughter and holds her hand, apparently Virginia Department of Health officials wants you to pick up the phone and destroy his life by reporting him as a possible sexual abuser. I would’ve thought this article about this campaign was from the Onion or some satirical publication, but it’s for real.

I have a 3+ year old daughter. She’s the light of my life, and hearing these things just makes me sick. Where have we gone wrong as a society, when we can’t even let our children dress up in cat suits for Halloween, without someone putting some sexual undertones on it, or claming one or both of the parents are pedophiles?

Being a Good Parent is NOT Pedophelia

From one of the comments in the blog:

…it appears there is a concerted effort to remove the man from our society. Almost any wild accusation can land him charges for rape, with no possible defense and a flock of protesters to ruin his life. Being seen helping a child can brand him as a sexual predator. Asking a child a question can do the same thing. Now we’re supposed to believe that holding your own child’s hand is grounds for prosecution?

What possible defense can the father have against such a campaign of terror? Men aren’t allowed to defend themselves against women, aren’t allowed to have relationships with women, and now they cannot even lay a claim of caring for their children?

I’m ashamed to live in a world so hell-bent on vilifying people for no practical reason.. it means we have almost no values left to defend.

Am I supposed to constantly be looking over my shoulder every time I’m at the playground, for fear that I’m being scrutinized while I’m in public with my daughter?

Is everyone so overcome with such blind zealotry that they would rather destroy a child’s life through inquisition than allow a father to show affection for his own children?!

There’s another story, where a 5 year-old boy was suspended from kindergarten, because he pinched another classmate’s butt in play..
The teacher that wrote him up, called the incident “sexual harassment”. What kind of 5 year-old boy even knows what “sex” is?

Everything has changed. The terrorists have already won. They’ve turned us into a state of panic and paranoia, and they didn’t even have to invade to do it.

What the Heck is Wrong with People?

Bad Behavior has blocked 545 access attempts in the last 7 days.